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How to give a singer as little leeway for expression as possible...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by RBrownBass, May 1, 2015.

  1. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    This isn't about a band, but about a recording project I've had in mind for a while. I put the thread here because this thread deals with how to deal with people. I'll explain.

    I've been working on some arrangements of rock and pop tunes (not my own) to be recorded in a Motown-y meets Seventies style, using both double and electric bass, depending on the song. I can pretty much get everything done instrumentally myself (there will be guitar, keys (various voices), and drums as well as bass (mostly double, but some electric as well) but it will require a real singer to cover the vocals. When I hear these tunes in my head, I know exactly what I want from the vocalist, every syllable, every inflection and every "baby". I'm prepared to pay the singer, of course, but it would require a lot of effort on her part to get it like I want it. And it would require me to record everything and then add my own voice to a separate track first. But is this something that happens a lot in recording? Can I expect a singer to come in and be nothing but the voice for my ideas- I quite literally mean the voice and nothing more. I know classical singers and mass choir singers do this all the time, but the genres being covered here tend to expect some sort of input from the vocalist, and in this case, she'd have none. It'd be sort of like she's singing a song she's heard for years on the radio, but exactly as she heard it rather than being able to "do her thing" with it.
  2. I don't see why you can't find one that wouldn't understand that. Simply communicate that she's being paid to do EXACTLY what you say, down to the T, zero improv, or it'll have to be re-done.

    I'm sure there are people out there like that other than myself. I just follow instructions if it isn't my own project. I like to take as much thinking out of it as possible lol.
  3. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Thanks for the reply! It sounds that simple, but I guess I'm skeptical. Most of my experiences in rock have been original bands, so I don't have all that much experience with singers who are called upon to repeat a part exactly.
  4. Don't settle. Only proceed with the right person. Might take awhile, might be the first one who auditions, just don't settle.
    AltGrendel, JollySpudd and petrus61 like this.
  5. If you have the money the singer will appear.
    Winfred and JollySpudd like this.
  6. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Be up front about it, and since you're going to pay be prepared to pay enough for the time and effort it will take to get all the details right. Can you notate the dynamics and inflections?

    I recorded two covers with a singer not long ago, and I was pretty annoying about getting the right rhythm and the right syllables accented and not changing anything in "Safety Dance". She put up with that, but it took quite a few takes.
  7. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    Your project, your money, your rules.

    My guitarist and I have a little recording project. On my tunes, he plays what I want. On his, I play what he wants. No matter how many takes, it needs to be how you hear it. The only caveat I can suggest is that collaboration sometime yields better results. Her "ohhhs", "ahhhs", and "baby's" may be better than what you hear in your head. Happens to me often.

    Good Luck!!!
    JollySpudd, Omega Monkey and Stewie26 like this.
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    If it is your project, you can do whatever you want.
  9. GuiTuber


    Feb 19, 2015
    San Antonio, TX
    It's certainly your project, but don't be so set in stone about it.

    Sometimes you don't know what you don't know.

    The odds of finding an artist that will adhere to your vision are pretty slim. The odds of finding an artist where both of you can work together to find THE right sound are much better.

    If you want passion to come through in the sound, it has to come from the heart, not a song sheet. You may never be satisfied because even the most cooperative singer may sound like they're just "reading their part".
  10. jasmangan


    Jul 13, 2008
    You have every right to expect the singer to sing exactly what is presented to her if you are paying for her time. You wouldn't pay a drummer to play a different beat than what you want , a singer is no different.
    That being said, if you can find a singer that blows you away you can usually get a cheaper rate if you let them "do what they do" and give them some sort of credit. Unless this album is going to the top of the charts there won't be any money to split anyway.
  11. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    Isn't that what classical music is all about? You don't play classical pieces, you recite them. Get a singer from a choir.
    RBrownBass likes this.
  12. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004

    That's just it- I don't know that I have any real intent of trying to sell it. At this point, all I want is a recording of the way I'm hearing these songs.

    I probably should not have used "project". I mean, it will BE just that from the standpoint of the things that have to be done to make the sound come through my headphones or speakers, but the songs themselves are essentially finished. I just have to get them from my brain to the disc.

    That's exactly the situation I'm concerned about, despite the statements by many that the money alone will make this happen.

    Different people detect emotions in different things in different ways. Or they think they do, anyway. I get what you're saying, but singers recite all the time with the same "passion" as the original vocalist when they're singing songs they know (well). Or they don't- depends on the talents of the singer. Given enough time, I'd think the ones who can sing with/give listeners the impression of "passion" could do this with the arrangements I'm hearing.
  13. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Absolutely. That's part of the plan, if the singer can read.

    A recording of the songs with me on vox would be provided in any case. What I want is for the singer to come in knowing this as well as they'd know whatever latest hit had been released a few weeks ago that they really liked (they'd have to like it, I think, to do it as well as they could) or some song that they'd known for a while longer.
  14. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    i've been paid to sing on a few demos for artists, and as long as they explained everything clearly, i did exactly what they wanted. after all, they were their songs, not mine, so no improving or interpretation - i can do that on my own recordings.
    RBrownBass likes this.
  15. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Find a singer who does a lot of cover band material.
    They usually sing it like it is.
    Good Luck.
    RBrownBass likes this.
  16. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

    Apr 15, 2013
    No way, man.

    Look, here's what you do: write out the part as you want it, then hire a singer who can read. Standard notation is capable of expressing everything you're looking for.
    RBrownBass likes this.
  17. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    You'll get objectively better results if you just give general guidance of what you are looking for, and then just correct any spots that need to be tweaked. If that means re-doing every syllable of the whole song, so be it, but when you let the singer do what comes naturally first, it's a lot easier to say, "no, more like this here".

    No matter what you tell them up front, it's still going to come out different, unless you know how to do a Vulcan mind meld. Let them do it how they think you want it, and then bend it as necessary to fit your "vision", which may or may not actually be worth achieving (or could in all likelihood be improved upon).
  18. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Thoroughly Nice Guy Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Are you certain that this is what you wanted to say?
  19. BazzTard

    BazzTard Banned

    If you find the right singer, I guarantee you she will sing it differently to what you hear in your head, and that it might actually be BETTER.
  20. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I suppose that's true of any kind of music where you play a piece the same way twice.
    I would look for a trained singer who has experience with contemporary music styles. The singers I know who could do this kind of work have music degrees.
    petrus61 likes this.

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